Thursday, August 30, 2012

I'm an idiot.

I'm trying to use the recovered yarn from Anhinga to design a vest. Got that? Yes? Good. I'm not sure how most people go about the process of creating a new torso covering, but my way involves lots and lots and lots of math. Also diagrams. I do about 3 hours of measuring and calculating whenever I'm changing something, quintuple checking my results so that I can get the fit I'm looking for, even if I'm just modifying an already existing pattern. (like, say, the grey sweater from the bowels of Hell.)  All that to say that I have a fairly good idea of what I'm doing when it comes to deciding how far to knit.

Unless I have an aneurysm. At that point all bets are off.

Allow me to explain: The cable border is 16 rows to a repeat, and repeats are roughly 3.25" in length. When I sat down to do my first half of the bottom border, I said to myself, "Well, we need 18 of these, so I'll knit 9 here and then do the corner chart."

Some of you have caught the error already. 18 repeats of the cable pattern, plus the corner charts which are roughly 5" each, means that the finished circumference of the lower band would be 68.5". That's 5' 8.5" of border. My hips are 41" around at the widest point, giving me more than 2 and a half feet of ease.

So what happened? Well, my notebook says to work the band half for roughly 18", not 18 repeats. The odd part is that my brain caught the mistake, even if it couldn't figure out what had gone wrong--I only worked 7 repeats instead of 9 in the right band, and 6 in the left. Even then, I didn't figure it out until I was blocking the finished bottom band, and the total measurement was close to 50". It's fixed now, but I'm nervous for the rest of this sweater if I can make such a painfully obvious mistake and not catch it for days.

I've picked up the body stitches and I'm working through my waist shaping. I'll let you know if the result is "person shaped."

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Computers really aren't my thing...

I finished my Aeolian a few days ago, but I haven't had the time/energy/lighting to take good pictures. I love this shawl. It turned out just like I hoped it would.

So that's that.

I have also been planning a vest.  I wanted to design my own cables and I did, which makes me feel awesome and like a sucker for punishment because I do not own chart editing software. I usually just sketch stuff out on notebook or graph paper and call it a day, but I can't find my graph paper pad (and if that first picture of the shawl is any indication, I may never find it on my desk... yeesh, it's a disaster area in there) and the pattern for the corner exceeds the number of lines provided on standard notebook paper.  So I'm learning to use an open source vector art program, Inkscape, which I picked up a while ago.

I am a sucker for open source software, and there's a substantial part of  me that wants to convert my computer over to linux just because it's open source. There are other reasons, too, but my complete technological ineptitude prevents the switch. "Surely you must be exaggerating," you think, but I'm not. It's been one constant war with computers for the last 6 years. My first computer was the spawn of the devil, so I'm willing to place some of the blame on her--we fought tooth and nail with a mouse that would move around the screen and open programs on its own, a broken left click and no "c" key, the ability to only print my papers out so that they would fit on a 3"x5" card,and windows Vista. Once I replaced her with my a newer, less willfully evil model, I had about 4 months of smooth sailing before disaster struck.  During a single semester of college, I crashed my computer so badly that it had to go back to the manufacturer and lost all my hard drive data including my thesis, broke the second one (a loaner from a friend) so that it wouldn't boot up past the "this is a Dell" screen, and disabled a keyboard on a school computer while trying to get my thesis introduction finished.

But I digress. Now that the charts are finished, I've started the bottom cable band after substantial amounts of math. Hopefully this thing will work. It follows my basic tenants of "stuff I prefer to knit," which are as follows: 1) longer is better--we did the crop top in the 90's and it was widely established to be a stupid idea; 2) everyone looks better in princess seams; and 3) continuous cables and shaping make my heart happy.

That corner... 

Hopefully my hours of math aren't lying to me and I've got my stitch and row counts right the first time through.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Recovering Anhinga

I was staring at my pile 'o balls 'o reclaimed wool yesterday and I decided to knit up a swatch. The good news was I got my expected gauge. The bad news was it looked like absolute dirt. It's very difficult to knit an even, wonk-free fabric when your yarn looks like a pile of ramen noodles. So any attempt to reuse this yarn would need to be either 1) something that was supposed to look grungy/textured or 2) a process which started with a long yarn bath.

I hadn't actually relaxed recycled yarn before--I should have on my Leitmotif cardigan, but that yarn was on its last legs and probably couldn't have taken the stress, plus the example sweater had some textured goodness to it as well. Also I am lazy. This whole thing would have been considered a learning experience if I had bothered to look up any resources, but, like most things I do in life, I figured I had a pretty good idea of what I was doing and if it blew up in my face I could always go look up the right way later.

This life philosophy has had mixed results.

So I got out my umbrella swift and set to work de-caking my three largest balls of salvaged wool. The result was, unsurprisingly, a pile of ramen noodles.

I have a theory that someday, somewhere, someone is going to try to market something like this as a very fetching cowl.
Albeit one with the propensity to snag everything.
From there, I gave it a good, long soak in some cold water. Wool is a fickle mistress, and with the way this yarn looked after I had frogged it (all frizzy), I didn't want to risk felting it to itself. That being said, I'm willing to bet warm water would have been a faster soak.

Pictured: Ramen Noodles
After it was completely saturated, I threw it over a hanger, stuck it in the shower, and then weighted it with a hoodie.
Turns out that hanks with greater circumference dry faster and decrimp better.
After that, it was just a waiting game. We don't have very good airflow in our new apartment and it's been hot and humid lately, so the drying process took a while.
It looks like totally different yarn. I am pleased.
This morning I took them down. They look just lovely. They aren't completely de-crimped, but the yarn is significantly more relaxed and I think it will work up a lot better thank its untreated brethren (which will get a bath later).
Before and After
I call it a success.
I have heard in the past that a steamy shower is usually enough to decrimp yarn, but I'm pretty well sold on this method. Also, it's so hot here that the idea of intentionally taking a steaming hot shower is repulsive.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Welcome to the frog pond

About 2 years ago, I bought enough yarn to make a sweater, and then I pawed around the LYS until I found the perfect pattern. I turned up a Norah Gaughan's Anhinga, which intrigued me with its asymmetrical panel, nifty structure, and the way my brain couldn't help but read it as Angina.Well, it was a bad decision for several reasons, including yarn choice and the fact that it's designed for a woman completely devoid of mammary tissue. The sweater looked awful on me.

But I had sewn it all together, even blocked it, and thought that it just needed to "relax" a bit to make it work.      2 years later, well, nothing magically got better, and since I'm not really in to owning clothing that I don't wear it was time to hit the frog pond.

(a note of clarification: the frog pond is so named because when you deconstruct something knitted, you rip it out, and if you rip it, rip it, rip it, well, you're a frog. It's a bad pun)

And so the sweater has been reduced to 10 balls of various sizes. I should probably wind them into hanks and relax out their ramen noodle shape, but my motivation is slim to none at the moment. I think it's destined to become a vest. I have ideas for a design, but again with the motivation.

Other than picking out miles of seams and ripping back yarn that's felted into itself, I've been making my second Aeolian. I made my first one years and years ago, and I loved it. It's like a piece of knitted jewelry. And then I snagged 3 rows along the edge, effectively breaking the yarn in 3 separate, nupp and decrease related spots. The result was an unfixable nightmare, complete with weeping and gnashing of teeth (less weeping than gnashing, though). I was pawing through my stash and grabbed some black laceweight left over from my Crown Prince Square--there's quite a bit of it. And then I remembered all of my silver beads, and I thought, "well, I have all of the materials. I might as well start this thing."

I prestrung my beads (a matter of personal preference--I feel that prestrung beads can sit on top of the knitting, but beads added individually are inside the work, as they cover a single stitch entirely. Also I don't own a crochet hook that small, and the idea of manually adding 850 seed beads makes me want to cry.), rewound my skein so as to evenly distribute them (success), and set to work. The little skein looks like stars, which is my hope for the shawl as well. Word to the wise, don't center pull from a beaded skein. You are unprepared for the knots that will result.

While knitting this, I have apparently become anal retentive for the first time in my life. ever. Normally when I make a mistake, I just correct it as best I can on the next row and move on.

Not so much this time. I have ripped back 8 rows twice trying to get this thing perfect. I think it's because the yarn is black, making the contrast between right and wrong more obvious, but it might just be that I'm growing as a person and actually care about my finished product instead of the process of making it. (however extremely unlikely that may be.) The practical upshot of ripping back work is my new found skill--post-hoc lifeline installation.

I have 10 more rows and a bind-off, but given the mathematical nature of triangle shawls and their area, I think I'll be done with this somewhere inside of a month.

Thursday, August 16, 2012's been a while...

Moving has this nasty habit of making me not want to do anything ever again. I attribute this to having handled all of my belongings twice (packing and unpacking) in a short period of time. Also the manual labor. That never helps.

As a result, I haven't really been knitting lately. Well, not only as a result of the moving. I'm also learning all sorts of things about university bureaucracy or why you shouldn't digitize your enrollment without testing the page on every browser. The last thing a future grad student wants to hear 2 months before she sells her soul to your department is, "oh, you're not actually enrolled here." Especially when that jeopardizes things like her stipend and that whole waived tuition thing.

Fortunately, my adviser (or the man who is probably my adviser, but we can't check since all of office management is on vacation through early September) is a competent, understanding individual and can call in favors so that I can actually attend school during the fall and not force my husband to drive 20 more miles to work for no real reason.

All is right with the academic world now. probably. I hope.

Also, it's been unrelentingly, blazingly hot here, and we don't even own a box fan let alone AC, so that really puts a cramp on the wool business.

So when I have been knitting instead of office hopping, it's been one of two things. The first is the hoarfrost moebius, which I freely admit I am making only as an excuse to use steel wool yarn. I don't really like the look of what I've got so far, and I'm not sure I'll like the finished product, but darn it, I've got two cones of the stuff and it's not going to knit itself. The fabric is really quite unique, and I love the drape or perhaps absence of drape it creates. Structure. The word I'm looking for is structure.

The second knitting project was a stash buster effort to not knit the hoarfrost moebius, and it's the honey cowl. It's a pretty quick knit, even in the largest size, though that may also be due to the yarn. I am deeply, madly in love with Arucania's Aysen. I love the colors, I love the fabric knitted up, I love the feel, I love the ply. This yarn can do no wrong for me, and the long slips in the honeycomb pattern let the beautiful dye job sing.
I was about 40 yards short, so I did some quick math and reduced the width to 9.5". This was a very, very good decision. I also worked a sewn bind-off to match my cast-on. They two are juxtaposed closely enough that I wanted them to be casually indistinguishable from one another.
Also, it's really hard to take good pictures of yourself wearing a winter cowl when it's >90 degrees in your apartment.